The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 35.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

News Briefs

IRS Investigates Lost Returns


As many as 40,000 federal tax returns and tax payment checks totalling more than $800 million from the Northeast have been lost or destroyed at a processing center operated by a Pittsburgh bank for the Internal Revenue Service, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Wednesday.

It is unclear whether any of the missing documents will be found. So the IRS is advising taxpayers who sent payments to Pittsburgh and whose checks have not cleared to stop payment on them. An IRS spokesman said the agency would pick up bank fees for the stop-payments.

The affected taxpayers, from upstate New York and several New England states, will have any penalties waived and replacement returns and checks credited as on time, IRS officials said.

The Pittsburgh contractor, Mellon Bank, has not explained what happened, other than to say it does not appear to be a case of identity theft, stolen checks or disclosure of sensitive taxpayer information.

Sources here said it appeared the IRS contract penalized Mellon for unprocessed returns and checks rather then rewarding it for those it did process.

“The system was flawed,” one said. “It gave them incentive to stick the payments in a drawer. It was almost cost-effective for Mellon to do that. There was no reward for timely processing.”

Many Americans Live To Be 100, Study Says


Martin Magner’s voice rumbles and clenches as he relives a night more than six decades gone.

For a moment, he is not a 101-year-old man living at Sunset Hall, a Los Angeles group home. He is a young man in Germany who has directed a controversial reworking of George Bernard Shaw’s “Too Good to Be True,” only to come face-to-face with the legendarily difficult playwright on opening night.

His torso jolts forward at the remembered thud of Shaw’s hand descending on his shoulder. His face mirrors terror, then jubilation, as Shaw’s voice echoes through his mind, proclaiming the staging a triumph.

Then the memory passes and he is back at Sunset Hall, in his wheelchair, in a present that has outlasted all of his expectations.

According to newly released 2000 census information, there are now more than 51,000 Americans who, like Magner, are 100 or older, among them about 1,400 so-called super-centenarians who top 110.

Even the Census Bureau says the numbers are probably inaccurate, mingling human error with equally human wishful thinking. Yet, flawed as the figures may be, they hold a kernel of truth: With each generation of healthier and longer-lived Americans, the romanticism of living to 100 is giving way to the reality of it.